Posts Tagged ‘Cuff Links’

Chart Digging, April 4, 1970

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

As I noted a couple of weeks ago, the upper portions of the Billboard charts from 1970 hold few surprises. Here’s the Top 10 from the Hot 100 on April 4, 1970, forty-three years ago today:

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
“Let It Be” by the Beatles
“Instant Karma (We All Shine On)” by John Ono Lennon
“ABC” by the Jackson 5
“Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” by Edison Lighthouse
“Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum
“House of the Rising Sun” by Frijid Pink
“The Rapper” by the Jaggerz
“Come and Get It” by Badfinger
“Easy Come, Easy Go” by Bobby Sherman

Not a bad swath of songs: A couple of timeless masterpieces at the top, with a little bit of clunky rock following; a youthful bit of R&B; some great fuzz guitar; a hard-edged cover of an old folk song; and a good helping of light pop and bubblegum with a Paul McCartney tune in the middle. Of course, it’s hard to be objective with these records (and so many more from that time). These were the sounds of my junior year in high school and remain deeply imprinted.

As we’ve found out here numerous times, however, that’s not always the case with records that show up lower in the chart. Given that it’s April 4, we’ll start with No. 44 (which I believe is the only one of today’s six I’ve ever heard before) and then move down eleven records at a time.

Jennifer Tomkins was born on a Sunday.
Her daddy got drunk and left home on a Monday.
Her mother, she died young, when Jenny was seven.
And Jennifer Tomkins went to work at eleven.

So begins the tale of the week’s No. 44 record as told by the Street People, a studio group that included Rupert Holmes, who would hit No. 1 under his own name in late 1979 with “Escape (The Pina Colada Song).” Holmes’ other footnote in pop history is that he wrote “Timothy,” the tale of cannibalism in a caved-in coal mine that the Buoys took to No. 17 in 1971. As for the Street People, their only other charting single was “Thank You Girl,” which went to No. 96 a couple of weeks after “Jennifer Tomkins” fell out of the chart.

The Village Soul Choir, according to Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles, was a ten-member interracial group from Queens, New York, that made the Hot 100 just once, in that long-ago spring of 1970. Funky and fun, “The Cat Walk” peaked at No. 55 on April 4 that year (it went to No. 27 on the R&B chart) after being pulled from the group’s seemingly odd album, Soul Sesame Street. According to the listings at Discogs.com, the group had a few other singles released, but none of them charted.

By the spring of 1970, the most recent Top 10 hit by the Classics IV had been the sorrowful “Traces,” which went to No. 2 on both the pop and AC charts in early 1969. Three other records had hit the Hot 100 since then, with “Everyday With You Girl” getting to No. 19. As April began, the group – now billed as Dennis Yost and the Classics IV – had another tale of lost love in the charts, as “The Funniest Thing” was sitting at No. 66, on its way to No. 59 (No. 11, AC). The group would have five more records reach the Hot 100, but only one of them, “What Am I Crying For,” would reach the Top 40, going to No. 39 (No. 7, AC) in late 1972.

The Cuff Links, a studio group featuring the voice of the much-heard Ron Dante, were sitting at No. 77 with “Run, Sally, Run” during the first week of April in 1970. The record, which would move up one more spot, was the third and last by the Cuff Links to reach the Hot 100. The best of those three had been “Tracy,” a delicious piece of bubblegum that had gone to No. 9 (No. 5, AC) in October of 1969. The follow-up, “When Julie Comes Around,” got only to No. 41, and after Dante urged Sally to run, the Cuff Links – even though both follow-ups to “Tracy” reached the AC Top 40 – became unfastened.

The Buffalo Soldiers, says Wikipedia, “originally were members of the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, formed on September 21, 1866, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This nickname was given to the ‘Negro Cavalry’ by the Native American tribes they fought; the term eventually became synonymous with all [four] of the African-American regiments formed in 1866.” In early April 1970, the record “Buffalo Soldier” by the Flamingos was sitting at No. 88, on its way to No. 86 (No. 28, R&B). The tribute to those long-ago soldiers was the last of fourteen charting singles for the group from Chicago that is far-better known for the 1959 doo-wop classic, “I Only Have Eyes For You.”

Being a lover of lush keyboards, 1960s and ’70s instrumental pop and cover songs, I smiled when I saw the names of Ferrante & Teicher at No. 99 in the chart from April 4, 1970. I don’t believe that I ever heard the piano duo’s version of Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” coming from the speakers of my radio. It would be surprising if I had, as the record was in the Hot 100 for just one week and moved no higher (though it went to No. 16 on the AC chart). I know, however, that I would have liked it. As little noticed as it was, the record was significant for being the last of fifteen records the duo placed in the Hot 100 between 1960 and 1970; “Exodus” was their high water mark when it went to No. 2 in January 1961. (After “Lay Lady Lay,” Ferrante & Teicher had three more records reach the AC chart into 1972, the most familiar of which would likely be “Love Theme from ‘The Godfather’,” which peaked on that chart at No. 28.)

‘She Goes Walkin’ Past My Window . . .’

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

A couple of days ago, looking ahead to the first after-Christmas post here, I started digging around in the Billboard charts. One of the Hot 100 charts that came out on December 27 – today’s date – was in 1969. Here’s the Top Ten that week:

“Someday We’ll Be Together” by the Supremes
“Leaving On A Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul & Mary
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” by B.J. Thomas
“Down On The Corner/Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam
“Holly Holy” by Neil Diamond
“Come Together/Something” by the Beatles
“I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5
“Whole Lotta Love/Living Loving Maid” by Led Zeppelin
“Take A Letter Maria” by R.B. Greaves

Boy, there is nothing there that I would not want to hear coming out of my radio. I don’t know that I ever heard the B-side of the Zeppelin record back then, but the rest were – and still are – about as familiar as any music in any year. I don’t know, however, that I have much to say about the records at the top of the chart anymore.

So, as I frequently do, I dropped to the bottom of that Hot 100 to see if there was anything I missed forty-two years ago. And moving up through the Bubbling Under portion, I saw a title that seemed familiar sitting at No. 113: “She Lets Her Hair Down (Early In The Morning)” by Don Young. A quick check of the reference library told me that the record peaked at No. 104 in the first weeks of 1970. It turned out to be the only record that the Brooklyn-born Young ever got near the pop chart. Still, it’s pretty good.

I kept scanning the Bubbling Under section of that Hot 100, and just six spots higher, at No. 107, was Gene Pitney with the same title: “She Lets Her Hair Down (Early In The Morning).” Pitney’s version went to No. 89 in early 1970 and has the distinction of being the last of thirty-one records that Pitney placed in or near the chart between 1961 and 1970.

I’d never heard either Young’s or Pitney’s version before. But the tune was familiar, as was the title. So I began digging and learned that two other versions of the same tune made the Hot 100 or its Bubbling Under section. The best-performing of all the versions was by the Tokens, whose version of “She Lets Her Hair Down (Early In The Morning)” was sitting at No. 68 during that last week of 1969, on its way to a peak of No. 61.

And the version that fared the worst was a cover of the tune by Bobby Sherman, who released “Early In The Morning” in the spring of 1973. That version topped off at No. 113.

But none of that explained why the tune was familiar. So I checked on its writers: Paul Vance and Leon Carr, according to All-Music Guide. Various indices noted that the two had written several pop tunes, with one of the indices listing eight of them. But it didn’t list “She Lets Her Hair Down (Early In The Morning),” so I figured it wasn’t complete. And I began wading through links on Google and elsewhere.

Vance, as it turns out, is someone whose name I should have known, a writer and producer whose co-writing credits include “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” (No. 1 in 1960 for Brian Hyland), “Catch A Falling Star” (No. 1 in 1958 for Perry Como) and the parody “Leader of the Laundromat” (No. 19 in 1965 for the Detergents). A look at his page at Wikipedia is instructive.

Carr, who passed on in 1976, had a list of credits nearly as impressive, in both popular music and advertising. Those credits include, Wikipedia notes, the “Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut . . .” jingle for Mounds and Almond Joy candy bars as well as the “See the U.S.A. in Your Chevrolet” jingle made famous by Dinah Shore:

Having wandered far astray – and not being bothered by that one bit – I refocused on Vance and Carr’s tune, “She Lets Her Hair Down (Early In The Morning).” I found a listing of tracks and writers for a greatest hits album by the Cuff Links, who had a No. 9 hit with “Tracy” in late 1969. There I saw a familiar title. For some reason, I have the entire Tracy album by the Cuff Links both on vinyl and in mp3 form, so I did a quick search. And among the blues, folk and pop tunes with the title “Early In The Morning” was a familiar album track by the Cuff Links:

I probably prefer Pitney’s version, but Ron Dante and his studio pals did a pretty decent job on a sweet pop song.

Just Too Early

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

The Texas Gal doesn’t have to travel often for her job, a fact that she and I both appreciate. But every once in a while, there’s no way around it. So it was this morning, as she and a few co-workers headed for Chicago. Their flight was set to leave the Twin Cities at seven o’clock, and security concerns require passengers to be at the airport an hour before the flight.

So for the past few days, the Texas Gal and her co-workers were counting hours back from six in the morning to set the schedule. They decided to meet this morning at half past four at a truck stop parking lot located near Interstate 94, their route to the Twin Cities. Thus, our alarm went off at a little past three o’clock this morning. The Texas Gal did her last bits of packing, and we got her bags into the car and headed out for the small town of Clearwater twelve miles away, where the truck stop overlooks the highway.

I’m not much of a morning person. (Neither, for that matter, is the Texas Gal.) If I had my druthers, I’d likely sleep until noon and be active each night into the wee hours. But even as a house-husband, that’s not practical. And during the years I was in the workforce, my presence was required on my various jobs at a relatively early hour. So when I was working, I trained myself to get to bed earlier and get up earlier. During my newspapering days, I was frequently the first one into the office, and I learned that I could get a lot of routine work done during those early hours.

And that remains true even when the work I do is my own. I tend to write my posts for this blog in the early hours, generally finishing before ten o’clock and almost always before noon.

But I’m still not much of a morning person. Especially today. I think as soon as I get this posted, I’ll grab a nibble and get some rest. Sometimes early is just too early.

A Six-Pack of Early
“Early In The Morning” by Buddy Holly, Coral 62006 [1958]
“Early In The Morning” by Vanity Fare, Page One 21027 [1969]
“Early Morning Rain” by Peter, Paul & Mary from See What Tomorrow Brings [1965]
“Early In The Morning” by The Cuff Links from Tracy [1969]
“Early Morning Riser” by Pure Prairie League from Bustin’ Out [1972]
“Early In The Morning” by Corey Harris from Between Midnight & Day [1995]

Buddy Holly’s “Early In The Morning” was written by Bobby Darin and recorded with backing vocals from – according to the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits – the Helen Way Singers, a group that did lots of session work during the late 1950s, based on a quick Google search. The record went to No. 32 on one of the various charts kept during the late 1950s and to No. 45 on another. It was Holly’s last Top 40 hit before his death: In early 1959, “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” entered the Top 40 on March 9, a little more than a month after Holly’s death.

Vanity Fare was a British pop group that, quite frankly, always puts me in mind of the groups that Tony Burrows was involved with: White Plains, Edison Lighthouse, the Brotherhood of Man and so on. But the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits lists five other names and no Burrows as members. “Early In The Morning” was a pleasant little ditty and went to No. 12 during a nine-week stay in the Top 40 as 1969 ended and 1970 began. Vanity Fare’s better-known hit, “Hitchin’ A Ride,” went to No. 5 during the spring of 1970.

“Early Morning Rain” is a durable Gordon Lightfoot tune that first showed up – as far as I can tell – as the title tune for an Ian & Sylvia LP in 1965. The composer’s own version shows up on Lightfoot! in 1966. By that time, the song had been covered by numerous folk artists and a few others, too, and over the more than forty years since then, the song has continued to attract musicians: Paul Weller included it on his 2005 album of covers, Studio 150. Peter, Paul & Mary covered the song on their 1965 album See What Tomorrow Brings. Here’s a video of a performance on the BBC that was most likely recorded around that time:

If there was an American equivalent of Tony Burrows, one of the nominees has to be Ron Dante, who was the voice of the Archies and of the Cuff Links in 1969 (and had previously sung as the Detergents on the spoof hit “Leader of the Laundromat”).  “Tracy” was the hit for the Cuff Links, reaching No. 9 during late 1969. One of the bits of filler on the Tracy album was “Early In The Morning,” which wasn’t a bad piece, as those things go.

Being an early morning rise sounds more appealing when Pure Prairie League is singing about it. The song was an album track on the group’s second album, Bustin’ Out, which remains one of the great country-rock albums. The hit on the album – though it took a few years for RCA to release it as a single – was “Amie,” which went to No. 27 in early 1975.

 Corey Harris, says All-Music Guide, “has earned substantial critical acclaim as one of the few contemporary bluesmen able to channel the raw, direct emotion of acoustic Delta blues without coming off as an authenticity-obsessed historian. Although he is well versed in the early history of blues guitar, he’s no well-mannered preservationist, mixing a considerable variety of influences — from New Orleans to the Caribbean to Africa — into his richly expressive music. In doing so, he’s managed to appeal to a wide spectrum of blues fans, from staunch traditionalists to more contemporary sensibilities.” I first came across Harris through his performance of “Walkin’ Blues” on the 2000 release, Dealin’ With The Devil – Songs Of Robert Johnson. Since then, I’ve only heard a few other things from Harris, but I’ve liked what I’ve heard. “Early In The Morning” is from his 1995 debut album.

— whiteray